Scientists’ Crazy Plan to Power Solar Panels with E. Coli - Lake Harding Association

Scientists’ Crazy Plan to Power Solar Panels with E. Coli

Scientists’ Crazy Plan to Power Solar Panels with E. Coli

By Micah Moen 100 Comments January 22, 2020


Solar panels have amazing promise, but serious
limitations. They’re expensive to produce, and it’s
in the name–you need sun to power them. What if there were a way to make solar panels
cheaper AND functional even in places with limited sun? And what if I told you the key to this is…bacteria? I know! Color me surprised–and also green, twice,
because this whole discovery makes use of photosynthesis AND E.coli. Ew. But first, let’s talk about how solar energy
traditionally works. A solar panel is made up of subunits, called
photovoltaic (or PV) cells. For a PV cell to work, it has to generate
an electric current, so each end of the cell is made up either negatively or positively
charged material, usually silicon mixed with either phosphorus or boron
This creates a pre-existing electric field, and when this field gets exposed to photons–aka
sunlight–it knocks some electrons loose from the silicon. We talked about this in a video here, silicon
is a semiconductor that’s used in all kinds of electronic applications. Other components of the solar cell then organize
those free-floating electrons into an electric current that can either be stored or used. But now, new work from a team at the University
of British Columbia came at this system from a totally different angle: solar cells powered
by E. coli! They’ve genetically engineered bacteria
to produce large amounts of a pigment called lycopene. This is a light-harvesting dye that gives
tomatoes their red-orange color, and is ‘photoactive’– meaning that, in its native state inside a
plant, it’s extremely effective at converting light into energy. In this case, the lycopene is what’s being
excited by light to release an electron, instead of a synthetic material like silicon. But the bacteria aren’t a semiconducting
material. For the energy the E. coli have absorbed to
be transferable, the team coated the bacteria in titanium dioxide nanoparticles, or TiO2. Ta-da, these light-absorbing, mineral-coated
bacterial cells are now semiconducting. They’re then attached to a glass surface
doped with oppositely-charged materials, and between the lycopene, nanoparticles, and doped
glass, you’ve got yourself an electric current induced by light! This is a huge leap in bio-hybrid PV technology. Other technologies have used light-harvesting
bio-based dyes in solar cells, but extracted the dye from the bacteria, which is expensive
and difficult. This new method is cheaper and easier because
it keeps the pigment inside the bacterial cells, and it uses a new technique to coat
the bacteria in the nanoparticles. Not only that, but this new experiment also
yielded almost twice the electric output of previous bio-based PV experiments. This gives a whole new meaning to the term
green energy, and if you need me, I’ll be cackling to myself about it for the next 15
years. Ok let’s address this: I thought E. coli
causes disease, right? It’s actually a super common bacteria we
use in research all the time. There are many strains, most of which can
be found in the intestines of humans and other animals, and only some of them or dangerous–most
are really useful and we couldn’t live without them in our systems! We use E. coli in the lab because it’s easy
and inexpensive to grow, and we can hack its genome to get it to produce the protein–or
in this case, pigment–that we want. These new bacteria-powered, or ‘biogenic’
solar cells are looking promising, not only because we’re making gains in how much electric
current they produce, but also because these PV cells, unlike synthetic ones made out of
materials like silicon, can produce just as much energy output in dim light as in bright
light, because the lycopene is so effective at harvesting energy from the sun. Still, there are a few details that need to
be straightened out before these ‘live’ solar cells are ready for market. For one, the bacteria die during this process,
so we’ve got to figure out a way to keep the poor little guys alive, reproducing, and
producing lycopene through the lifetime of the solar cell so you don’t have to always
go in and replace the bacteria. Plus, this prototype currently produces about
25 times less power than a traditional solar cell, so the design of the device needs to
be significantly improved before it’s a feasible option. Regardless, this is an exciting way to reimagine
solar panels that work in areas that don’t get a lot of sun. Plant power + bacteria power=my favorite combo
in the WHOLE world. To learn more about the insane power of bacteria,
check out my previous video on how they may be controlling your mind. Subscribe to Seeker to keep up with all the
energy technologies of the future and speaking of bacteria–E. coli was one of the first
organisms to have its genome sequenced! I’m Maren, thanks for watching.

100 Comments found

User

mrspeigle1

Seems like a shit idea. :^)
That being said replacing a non temperamental item that doesn't die with an item that requires the care and feeding of a living organism sounds just a bit impractical unless you can manage something like a tree that produces electricity.

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Scott H

25 times less efficient? How does that make this better for areas with less sunlight?

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Christopher Peterson

This is how the zombie apocalypse happens. Lol.

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Camille Cardoze

energy straight outta my ass

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Caleb M

glycosylated TiO2. Worth investigating whether these particles can be expressed through genetic coaxing.

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JohnBlund94

Solarpanels are already really fuctional in places with little sun.They even melt snow in winter, so you don't have to go up on the roof to clean them.
Maybe there will absorb even more sun and that's really good.But to say that todays slarpanels can't take up sun in places with little sun is wrong.

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Lue Ciefer

I had a similar idea a few years ago. Basically get fields of operable glass sheets layered about 1/4 an inch or so apart with several chambers that could be filled with water and nutrients. These would be stored in a rigid frame however large that could be operable on one end. You fill the stacked chambers with nutrient dense water and introduce small samples of genetically modified bacteria that produce ethanol or some other flamable or useful material as a by product. You let them grow (hopefully very fast) and once the chamber is filled simply drain the water and push out the bacteria into a harvester that can filter out the say ethanol and than dry the remaining material to be burned for fuel similar to a wood stove. The key is that you'd get 2 sources of energy through very very little material input and i imagine with a well thought out system, very little work. Most of the actual fuel would be the sun, so it's kind of a solar panel.
This is cool too… i guess
😛

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Teddy Bear

1st thing comes to my mind is maintainace of these kind of solar cells.. Its a living thing gotta keep it alive.. Its delicate.. Got to make sure it has right environment, temperature, humidity, ph+ etc… Got make sure it gets right nutrients too.. I dont see any advantage of it compared to non living silicone cell.. In my opinion its more work and cost more in the long run..

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Faisal Saeed

What is the lifetime of a silicone based solar panel?

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User

Qazza

cute

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Evil Robin

Whatever they need to do to stop fucking about with things. Side-thought: are the strains used here non-pathogenic? Stay sharp, kids.

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franzb69

what if the bacteria gets out and becomes super bacteria that can't be killed and infects livestocks and people? you don't know what the environmental impacts will be. bacteria evolve and adapt so much faster because of their shorter lifespans.

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Emperor Zoditron

Genius

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JustGotALife

This should be shared with all the pani puri walas. So that they can finally save all the E. Coli infected water, they use to make pani puri and grow a booming business.

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User

Show bobs and Vagene pls

In that case…India is a good place to start then ….

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User

Ioan Jivan

But if bacteria is life, this poses ethics problems.

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Reverend Jynxed

And how long do the bacteria live? Do you have to toss in a dead cat every now and then?

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User

Ra Vee

If I had a Dollar every time you said "What If…"

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patryn36

solar cells are essentially heat converters. that is why they dope the silicon, silicon has a property called a 'hole' and the materials used for doping are 'willing' to give up electrons when they get warm enough. my thinking currently is that solar panels are used for capturing solar energy because of a need to control the temperatures, otherwise we would see these in nuclear power plants harvesting more of the heat produced.

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Black bones

Please tell me what is the actual difference between living and nonliving think pls

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Bryan Blatz

Wow colour me impressed, 25x less output for how many times the cost? Please don't tell our eco warriors about this or they will be on the bandwagon!

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floyd nelson

what does it mean to have twice the electrical output but 25 times less power?

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User

Petrazenka

The shit has hit the fan…. Feces power, shit power, recycling excrements, doodoo panels.

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User

Batmeme

Stop it SCIENCE, E.coli has life too

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User

The Cheaterman

Is it twice more or 25x less? It's not super clear. Otherwise I loved the video with the colored background and Maren's nice glasses 😀 it looks so trippy and 60's!

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User

G. Dave3

Genetic Engineering fit whatever purpose is WRONG and potentially VERY dangerous to the natural world!

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User

Keng Yuan Chang

In OLED's case though, increasing number of panels with permanent burns makes consumers and manufacturers rethink about this organic TV future, even when it's so much superior.

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User

Cc T

did you cut your hair, if so how much did you cut off and cool story thank you.

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User

Arjekay

Guess what happens once those alternated E. coli bacteria packed with Lycopene somehow enter the Human body and mingle with our Lycopene-less E. coli bacteria… yea I wonder too

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User

Xeno Bardock

Just put a convex lens at the right distance on top of traditional solar panels and you have increased the efficiency by many times https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jFBlqqltqP8

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Krys Palys

As a biologist, I'd like to say; "what a stupid idea".

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Nathanial Hornblower

And what a wonderful way to kill off the general population when our overlords decide to "push that button" …. because everyone who owns a house they will give this solar tech away ……

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Arkarov

Just don't accidentally create the reapers

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Allen Le

So don’t ask if your dreams are crazy…
Ask if they’re crazy enough -Nike

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kkg T

Like most tech shown in these videos we will never hear about this again.

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Kobi Morton

Pointless, There's far less titanium on Earth than silicon so on a global scale it won't be viable- There's simply not enough resources. I admit this is really clever but it would be more useful to grow algae for biofuel.

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User

ShadowDurza

So human civilization is finally transitioning into biotechnology huh? Now my friends in the Regulus System won't have a reason to tease me lol.

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User

Naga Praneeth Chukka

Why only TiO2 ? Why not any other? (Just curious)

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Raul M.

Once you go that far with micro organisms, you might aswell go with biofuels. I would prefer an Electric powered Car but biofuels are greener* than fossil fuels.

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Tommy McCabe

Way cool!

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User

Jay Gojiya

I have 5kwh solar plant

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User

Dexter Sullen 'TRUTH'

How long do they last tho

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User

Dexter Sullen 'TRUTH'

Can I just pee on a solar panel

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User

Aniwazoa

Very interesting!

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User

Nobilis

Meaning that currently this video was a waste of time because right now it’s not feasible.

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yuki teru

Solar energy Is the cheapest energy….. Ever are you living

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User

Sew mehon

oh nano bio 😵😲

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Dana Putnam

The first question I had was don’t the ecoli have to be alive?
And of course 3/4s in she says oh just one little problem the ecoli have to be alive.
Ok I am out of here!

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User

Dana Putnam

Doping E Coli with titanium dioxide? That’s like house paint. One celled organisms have semi Permeable membrane that allows certain molecules in and out. The coating will most likely kill the bacteria.

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Igor Sawicki

25 times less and everything is clear..

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Bayu Fadhilla

Diarrhea panels

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User

Boyd Gilbreath

RUMP used money that was meant for Hurricane Victims to build Concentration Camps for children! What? He took money from a whole long list of agencies for that? Hello and Welcome, President Pence. Lodestar.

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sanjuansteve

They are 25 times less efficient in normal light conditions, but they gain some back by being more efficient in low light conditions, or was that factored in already? We should all be using electric vehicles charged from the excess power generated from our home, business and covered parking rooftop solar arrays.

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Eric Outram

Ya should 🐝 be in medicine (cancer research)
Hacking the geno
For its protein ,pigment s

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Eric Outram

How to keep it alive?precription,or decryption,description?

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Brian Mathis

I haven't read the paper but wouldn't ambient temperature have a huge impact on the bacteria's "productivity" ?

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User

Phobos

She is so hot. Both intellectually and physically.

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User

Igor S

Annoeeeeng voieaace

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User

Mike CorLeoné

Remember ebola.. zika… west nile… hiv… etc remember those geoengineered mosquitoes that were released into the public that ended up killing a bunch of people… how is this better..

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User

Harry Potter

Solar panels aren’t that expensive
80% of the sun still gets through clouds
That e-coil shit sounds way more expensive

Fail

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User

ICONIC MUSIC

I'm. so. attracted.

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wabi sabi

Why not just use tomatoes? Hah! 😂

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Jaspreet Singh

and soon there would be people going " bacteria's have rights too!!"

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User

Sandwish

EEEEEEEE

Coli (proof that memes are made for smart people) :p

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User

Atheist Guy19

Are they positively/Negativity CHARGED, or P/N-Type Semiconductors??
I believe the later is true.

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User

Dean Reading

"the lycopene produce the same energy in dim or bright light because they're so effective at harvesting energy from the sun"
That doesn't mean they're very effective, it means that their conversion efficiency drops at higher solar intensities…

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User

kght222

2:40 it also bring a whole new meaning to getting sick from breaking electronics. although given the option between mercury poisoning (damaged tv tubes and cuts) and food poisoning…. i'll take the 24hr bug.

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kght222

i apologize, but trace much? it isn't the braces, it's the eyes.

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MyView

What happens when billions of bacteria die and rot, atleast you will be able to know the location of solar panels with smell….

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asierra1492

This could be just as interesting if they skipped all the bad jokes.

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THE SILENT GOD

could be useful if the problems (bacteria dying, increased production…etc) can be fixed, but our primary focus should be nuclear (or hydro, geo if available). nuclear renaissance is already happening, it is time to embrace nuclear energy.

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Robert Queberg

A smart and pretty young lady. Keep up the good work. The world needs a lot of your attitude and abilities. Being part of the baby boom generation the solar power experiments that my brother and we’re able to conduct, was to chase ants across the sidewalk with a magnifying glass. Seeing people like you makes me feel better about the future of our Earth.

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Ezra Wright

E. Coli isn't usually harmful unless it becomes infected with a bacteriophage virus.

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VOLKAN TEKCAN

BACTERIAS DIE! YOU KEPT SECRET UNTIL 3.30

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zacariah heim

Interesting, definitely. A transparent liposome based "electrolyte" with dextrose,fructose,glucose,maltose,sucrose etc etc could be added as nano-sphere food packets for the E-coli. The refractive index of the liquid electrolyte would have to be taken into account, due to the lipid-nano-spheres, but otherwise this should keep the bacteria alive long enough to make "single use" biosolar cells. Use carbon based electrodes (a transparent top spin-coated conductive bio-degradable plastic as one electrode and carbon-biodegradable plastic as the other, TiO2 coated bacteria in Liposome solution as a gelled thin film electrolyte. These would make really cheap solar panels for clothes and micro-sensors where replacing the panel wouldnt be an issue. With proper manufacturing and application of micro-fluidic channels, the solar cells could increase in life expectancy dramatically as a food source could be provided on demand.

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zacariah heim

First the E.coli Powered Polariton LASER, now E.Coli based Solar Panels. What next? E.coli solar panels powering an e.coli LASER???? Sign me up!! Room temp biological polariton generation!!!! OH YES. We are in the future baby, here we come!!!

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Mr. Freeze

Instead of going through all the trouble and risk of altering genes of bacteria, why don't we try to find a way to extract electricity directly from trees?

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User

Kalash Sharma

E. Coli can reproduce very fast and can also mutate fast so probability of this system to work is questionable

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User

Aniket Biswas

What would you need to study at university to work on this type of stuff?

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User

Василий Пеньков

one shipment of racking material was damaged during shipment and the customer service department replaced them immediately when i took pictures and sent them to them. phone number is +18553395432

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Ксения Кузнецова

your company provides a great service from the purchase to the final installation. phone number is +18552880979

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Cc T

Did she have hair down below her ass before as it looks short in this video.i

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[email protected]

When i was in elementary school i asked my biology teacher about that he said …not gonna work…
What an asshole

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Yatagarasu4444

Did something similar in my University for Microbiology, we had to create a bacteria battery cell for our assignment.

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Tibor Z

30 years away…

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RoScFan

I dont understand why we dont use bacteria to just turn co2 water and solar energy back into liquid fuel.

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Russell Bantin

So, we will need to feed and water our solar cells?

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gmjpharmd

Just don't use E.coli O157:H7 strain

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Ronnie Marion

Can this bio-solar technology be somehow combined with the new "Golden Sandwich" solar technology developed in Japan? That solar panel harvests 85% ofsunlight, making it 11 times more efficient than standard panels. What if these two methods of solar harvesting could be somehow combined into an even more efficient method? https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/09/180910093533.htm

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V. Wagner

https://bit.ly/2C0qCeE?-home-solar-panel-design

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Sebastian L

Likapeen

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Rayagoldendropofsun Sunlightelectrorays

Ocean water is the life source of earth's hot core. It's a process, the hot temperature of it's core splits the water molecules freeing the oxygen hydrogen gases, which then becomes fuel to burn as it's main energy source . This is why Mars is with a cold motionless core, there's no ocean water to fuel it. The present temperature deep within Mars core is enough to splits water molecules freeing the oxygen hydrogen gases, but it needs a larger volume, oceans .
Here's how it works !
Pour some water on a hot surface to see the oxygen hydrogen gases rise as gas smoke, that's what happens deep within earth's core.
Volcanoes are all connected to earth's hot core, and whenever they're spitting out lots of sut and gases into the atmosphere, it's because it may have taken on too much water, of which it can not process, so it pushes it out into the atmosphere to relieve it's tension , and because of this, some volcanoes becomes dormant , others completely die.

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Adhish Bhardwaj

Here from Instagram

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Nelson Darwin Pak Tech

The algae can be a good option to convert dirt to crude oil,,,

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Klaus

Rick : Its Societee they work together morty they pay echother they Buy houses they get married make children they replaced them self when there to old to make power

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Brad B

shes so hot like nerdy hot

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Neil Farbstein

Your solar panels have to be really hot to make light from heat. Hotter than average.

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SGT ROCK

STOP

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umar ali

Why does science take soooo loooonnnnggggg

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Matt Horwich

I'm pretty damn sure the smart people didn't tell me if the densest neutron star is a magnetar on purpose!!! Just to work my chain!!

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